TESSIER (Texier), dit Lavigne, PAUL (he signed Tesier), master mason and contractor; b. 22 Oct 1701 at Montreal (Que.), son of Jacques Tessier (Texier), dit Lavigne, and Marie Adhémar, dit Saint-Martin; d. 20 Oct. 1773 at Longue-Point (Montreal).
Paul Tessier, dit Lavigne, was the son of a Montreal Island censitaire and the grandson of the carpenter-sawyer who established the Tessier, dit Lavigne, family in Canada. In November 1719 Paul’s father apprenticed him to Louis-Jean Denys, a Montreal edge-tool maker, for three years. This arrangement was short-lived, for in the following March Paul was indentured for three years to Jean Deguire to learn the stonemason’s craft. Paul’s cousin Dominique Janson*, dit Lapalme, was also a masonry contractor at this time, as had been another cousin, Pierre Couturier*, dit Le Bourguignon.
After his training Paul resorted, like so many others, to the fur trade in order to obtain the capital he needed to establish himself as an independent craftsman and householder. In April 1726 he and his younger brother Jacques signed on as voyageurs for Constant Le Marchand* de Lignery, Jean Lemire Marsolet, and François Augé. Jacques only made a round trip to Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.) via “La Grande Rivière” (Grand River, Ont.), but Paul, for 300 livres, went into the country beyond and returned the following year. Paul’s earnings allowed him to buy a town lot next to his father’s property on Place d’Armes on the north side of Rue Saint-Jacques in November 1727. There he had a small, wooden, one-storey house, which he may have built for himself, since he ran up a substantial debt with Pierre Courreaud de La Coste over the next two years. Paul’s bright prospects enabled him to marry on 19 April 1728 the young widow of Jean-Baptiste Descaris, Jeanne Lefebvre, who had a daughter by her previous marriage. In his marriage contract Tessier described himself as a “master mason and stone-cutter.” The Tessiers had six children of whom three daughters survived childhood. As well as bearing the responsibility of parenthood, Paul, as the eldest living son, acted on behalf of his brothers and sisters in legal matters and took care of his mother after she was widowed in 1738.
By 1737 Tessier had become a successful master builder in Montreal, employing three stonemasons and an apprentice. Private dwellings provided most of his work and the most famous of these was the Château de Ramezay, which he repaired and enlarged in 1740–41. In 1749 he embarked on construction of the king’s storehouse near the Beauharnois gate. The stone structure was two and a half storeys high, with a vaulted cellar, and measured 120 by 40 pieds; it was Tessier’s greatest undertaking. In 1756 he contracted to restore and extend the residence of the Compagnie des Indes in Montreal and to provide a cut stone entrance “like that of the intendant’s palace.” For each of these projects Tessier hired stonemasons and labourers and made subcontracts with wood suppliers and carriers of sand and pebbles.
Tessier’s enterprise procured a comfortable existence which is revealed by the estate inventory made in 1760 after his wife’s death. His home was adorned with clocks, plaster busts and parrots, and a painting of the Virgin Mary. Tessier slept on a luxurious bed worth 600 livres and ate at a table for which there were wineglasses, a silver service, and porcelain coffee cups and plates. Nonetheless, the builder was semi-literate and owned no books. Subtracting foodstuffs over-valued at 2,417 livres, Tessier had movable assets worth 5,421 livres, 9 sols against a debt of 3,300 livres. To his misfortune, he held paper bills of credit from the government with a face value of 18,720 livres. Worse still, he acquired more of this rubbish before the transfer of Canada to Great Britain and lost a considerable amount of money when the French government refused to honour the bills. To cap his misfortunes, Tessier’s house was destroyed by fire in April 1768, and many of his remaining assets were sold at the suit of the merchant John Porteous, likely for debts owed. His fortune gone, Tessier appears to have moved in with the children of his uncle, Paul Tessier, dit Chaumine, at Longue-Pointe, and there he died.
[Since there were three persons named Paul Tessier, dit Lavigne, in 18th-century Montreal, the researcher faces an identification problem. There were the subject of this biography, his uncle, and his cousin. p.n.m.]
AN, Col., F3, Cartes et plans, 82, 85 (mfm. at PAC). ANQ-M, Doc. jud., Juridiction de Montréal, 11, ff.108, 218; Greffe de J.-B. Adhémar, 2 nov. 1719, 6 nov. 1724, 14 janv. 1725, 22 avril 1726, 1er févr., 7, 9 mars 1737, 6 mars 1740, 31 déc. 1743; Greffe de L.-C. Danré de Blanzy, 24 août 1756, 2 juin 1760; Greffe de Jacques David, 6 mars 1720; Greffe de N.-A. Guillet de Chaumont, 25 févr. 1729, 22 mai 1730; Greffe de J.-C. Raimbault, 9 oct. 1731; Greffe de François Simonnet, 26 sept., 7 oct. 1740, 29 mai 1741, 17 mars, 8 sept. 1749. “Etat général des billets d’ordonnances . . . , ANQ Rapport, 1924–25, 259. L’île de Montréal en 1731: aveu et dénombrement des messieurs de Saint-Sulpice, seigneurs de Montréal, Antoine Roy, édit. (Québec, 1943), 42–43. “Procès-verbaux sur la commodité et incommodité dressés dans chacune des paroisses de la Nouvelle-France par Mathieu-Benoît Collet, procureur général du roi au Conseil supérieur de Québec,” Ivanhoë Caron, édit., ANQ Rapport, 1921–22, 296–97. “Recensement de Montréal, 1741” (Massicotte), 42 Quebec Gazette, 24 Jan. 1765, 28 April, 12 May 1768, 17 Aug. 1769, 5 Dec. 1771, 6 Jan. 1774, 2 Aug. 1781, 25 Aug. 1785. Massicotte, “Répertoire des engagements pour l’Ouest,” ANQ Rapport, 1929–30, 251. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, V, 85. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 562; VII, 275. Archange Godbout, “Urbain Tessier, dit Lavigne,” SGCF Mémoires, XI (1960), 6–21. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Maçons, entrepreneurs, architectes,” BRH, XXXV (1929), 132–42. Antoine Roy, “Le coût et le goût des meubles au Canada sous le Régime français,” Cahiers des Dix, 18 (1953), 236.